Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Mca-morocco App
Posted on June 14, 2012 by Sheila Herrling, Vice President for Policy and Evaluation
If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, MCC should be very flattered by changes happening in Morocco. CEO Daniel Yohannes and I just finished a visit to Morocco to see progress under MCC's $697.5 million compact in agriculture, artisanal fisheries and artisan development. Throughout our visit, one message rang loud and clear: MCC’s approach is changing the way Morocco does business.
At MCC, we talk a lot about a continuum of results, whereby we track the impact of our investments from policy reform and changed business practices to inputs, outputs and, eventually, outcomes largely measured through income gains for program beneficiaries. While we saw representations of the larger outputs achieved to date, we heard something equally interesting but harder to measure--that the Government of Morocco is applying the MCC model--transparency, accountability, results-focus, and standard-setting--to its own operations. Some quick examples cited by government officials:
• The Minister of Agriculture and Maritime Fisheries described the Morocco Compact’s Fruit Tree Productivity Project as the Government of Morocco’s model for farmer aggregation, one of two key pillars in its own agricultural development strategy or “Green Morocco Plan.” Like MCC, the Government of Morocco has committed to making agriculture an even greater growth engine in the country by focusing on the organization and professional development of farmers as a principal tool.
• The Minister of Finance and Economy applied MCC’s model when recently presenting the Government of Morocco’s first ever citizen-driven budget. In fact, he credited MCC on several occasions for inspiring participative public consultation in the design and implementation of newer Moroccan government programs.
• The Minister of Handicrafts is bringing MCC's high standards on social and environmental impact assessment to bear in broader Government of Morocco investments.
While we won't know the full impact of MCC's investments until some time after the end of the compact, in the meantime, it was gratifying to hear that MCC’s model is fast becoming the model of choice across the Government of Morocco.
Posted on September 28, 2011 by Rick Gaynor, Director of Property Rights and Land Policy
Last month, MCC’s project for Place Lalla Yeddouna in the Medina area of Fez, Morocco was awarded an Acknowledgement Prize by the Holcim Awards, a prestigious international competition that recognizes innovative projects, future-oriented concepts, and sustainable construction.
The Medina of Fez, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, home to thousands of artisans who ply their trades as their families have for generations, producing the exquisite pottery, leather, metal, textile and wood crafts for which Morocco has come to be known.
MCC and the Government of Morocco are working to address the poverty, poor working conditions and environmental challenges in the Medina through an ambitious project to revitalize Place Lalla Yeddouna, a public square on the banks of the Fez River where copper workers and other artisans produce and sell their goods. The project aims to stimulate economic growth by redeveloping Place Lalla Yedouna in a way that addresses dangerous working conditions and safety hazards and renovates the Medina into a true center of commerce and community activity.
The Holcim Awards awarded a prize to the MCC-funded project in recognition of its transformation of this unique and previously neglected site on the banks of the Fez River. The Holcim Awards jury believes that improvement of Place Lalla Yeddouna will be a catalyst for development of surrounding areas, with positive social impacts that will extend far beyond the site’s boundaries.
Renovation of Place Lalla Yeddouna was designed by mossessian & partners and Yassir Khalil Studio, architectural offices based in London and Casablanca, respectively. In early 2011, these firms won an MCC-funded international design competition created to solicit original design proposals for the renovation; 176 teams representing over 90 countries submitted proposals.
MCA-Morocco, the Government of Morocco entity implementing the MCC compact, conducted consultations with the people of Fez at various stages – before and after the original design competition – to provide input on the future of Place Lalla Yeddouna and the needs of residents who would be affected by the project. These consultations generated unprecedented communication between civil society and government about the future of the Medina.
Place Lalla Yeddouna is an exciting project that will have a positive and important impact in Fez and Morocco. Construction will begin in spring 2012, and is expected to be completed in fall 2013. We look forwarding to posting project updates here soon. Read more about the Holcim Award.
Posted on August 4, 2011 by Rachel Fredman, MCC Intern Morocco
Driving through the hills near Taounate in Northern Morocco is dizzying at times. With sweeping views of precipitous peaks and groves of olive and fig trees, one feels immediately transported to southern Spain. It’s disorienting to think that only a day before I was in a cool oasis flanked by date palms and sun-scorched desert. This is the geographical diversity of Morocco.
A view of the hills over Taounate.
It is this geographical diversity that yields tremendously varied agriculture. According to the World Bank, the agricultural sector in Morocco employs about 40 percent of the nation's workforce, making it the largest employer in the country and about 15 percent of its total GDP.
About 70 percent of the poor live in rural Morocco, which results in a massive rural exodus toward urban areas like Casablanca or Rabat, or the European Union. Many of these urban economies, however, cannot support this migration and these people often find themselves selling tissue or other goods on the side of the road for lack of better opportunities.
Many of the agricultural practices in Morocco have led to massive amounts of soil erosion, which is often irreversible. In the rainy sections of the northeast of the country, barley, wheat, and other cereals can be raised without irrigation. Farmers default to these crops in many of the areas we are passing through, razing trees on the mountains and planting wheat in their place. Along with overgrazing, this is causing land degradation and serious desertification throughout the country. We often pass by a mountain that, once home to trees and native plants, is now crackling dry from soil erosion. This intense desertification in Morocco also increases water pollution. The loose topsoil causes an increase in runoff, which in turn increases the siltation levels of Moroccan reservoirs and the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
The Morocco Compact is addressing these issues with its ambitious Fruit Tree Productivity Project. This Project will rehabilitate about 55,000 hectares of existing rain-fed fruit tree orchards and expand fruit tree production on nearly 62,000 hectares of land. It aims to increase and stabilize the income of poor farmers by shifting to more valuable tree crops – from wheat to rain-fed olive, date and almond trees. Almost 70,000 households will benefit from higher productivity and increased incomes. Moreover, they will be provided training and technical assistance on improved crop husbandry techniques that will increase yields and alleviate soil erosion as well as strengthen links to markets.
We visited one such cooperative in a small village near Taounate to learn more about their program.
Me, in the sunglasses, with a farmer cooperative near Taounate. The cooperative president is in the center, with the hat.
The cooperative consists of about 20 young to middle-aged men who want to stay in this village and farm to earn a better living than they would by moving to the cities. The president of the cooperative is a vibrant man whose former military training has given him the management skills to make this cooperative successful.
The members of this cooperative lead us to their field school where they are experimenting with more sustainable farming practices. A farmer field school is an innovative agricultural development methodology in which a group of farmers gets together in one of their own fields to learn about their crops and things that affect them. They learn how to farm better by observing, analyzing and trying out new ideas on their own fields. Unlike traditional approaches to agricultural extension which rely on extension workers providing advice to farmers, farmer field schools enable groups of farmers to find out the answers for themselves, maximizing their ownership in improving their farming practices. Essentially, the farmers can develop solutions to their own problems.
Farmer field schools are one of many techniques that are being implemented by MCC’s Fruit Tree Productivity Project in Morocco. Farmers are also being trained in integrated pest management, ways to mobilize their existing resources to increase production, and business support through technical assistance, applied research and scientific support. Nearly 33,000 farmers will be provided training. Meeting with this farmer cooperative reinforced in me the vast and sustained impact MCC is having on the rural poor in Morocco.
Posted on April 20, 2011 by Rick Gaynor, Director of Property Rights and Land Policy
Each time I step into the ancient Medina of Fez, I feel as if I am traveling back in time. The Medina (which means “city” in Arabic) was founded in the ninth century and is considered by many to be the educational, religious, cultural and artisan heart of Morocco. Today it is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, home to thousands of artisans who continue to ply their trades as they have for generations, producing the exquisite pottery, leather, metal, textile and wood crafts for which Morocco has come to be known. I never tire of getting lost in the Medina’s narrow pathways, dodging donkeys, pushcarts and crowds of people, and taking in the sights, smells and sounds of this ancient, living, breathing city that is home to over 100,00 people. It’s easy to see why Fez is a UNESCO World Heritage site—there is truly nowhere like it in the world.
However, much of the Medina has fallen into disrepair from lack of investment. It is common to see wooden beams braced between crumbling buildings to prevent them from collapsing. Approximately 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Over half the Medina’s residents are said to be linked to the artisan sector. These artisans typically work in small, cold, dark and unsafe workshops and I’m constantly amazed that they can produce such beautiful artwork under such conditions. The Medina also faces serious environmental degradation. The Jawahir River (the name means “the River of Jewels” in Arabic), which bisects the Medina, has become highly polluted from years of being used as an open conduit for wastewater and toxic chemicals used in artisan production.
MCC and the Government of Morocco are working to address the poverty, poor working conditions and environmental challenges through an ambitious project to revitalize Place Lalla Yeddouna (PLY), a public square in the Medina where copper workers and other artisans produce and sell their goods. The project aims to stimulate economic growth by launching a redevelopment project that addresses the dangerous working conditions and safety hazards and makes PLY the center of commerce and community activity that it should be.
MCC and the Government of Morocco launched an open, anonymous International Design competition in September 2010 and selected a winner in March 2011. We were thrilled that 176 teams from over 90 countries registered for the competition. The people of Fez were consulted at various stages, before and during the competition, to provide input on the future of Place Lalla Yeddouna and the needs of residents who would be affected by the project. This led to a conversation about the future of the Medina that was unprecedented in Morocco.
On March 18, 2011, a panel of expert jurors representing all the stakeholder institutions and including a group of renowned international architects selected the design of mossessian & partners, an architectural firm based in London, as the winner. Mossessian’s proposal shows extreme sensitivity to the Medina’s urban context and architecture, using cues from the patterns, geometry and repetition that characterize Islamic design, while introducing innovations like re-connecting Place Lalla Yeddouna to the riverfront and creating a pedestrian route along the river. Outdoor galleries and public spaces will be connected through pathways that echo the Medina’s narrow streets and will be decorated with colorful tiles produced by local artisans, giving each space a distinct identity. Historically important buildings will be rehabilitated and preserved while new buildings will replace less-significant buildings that have fallen into disrepair or are inconsistent with the new uses surrounding the square. The project has already caused the Municipality of Fez to take steps to clean up the river, and additional improvements are planned so that Place Lalla Yedounna can realize its full potential as community center and driver of economic development.
There still remains a lot to be done prior to construction, such as resettling some artisans and cleaning up the polluted river. However, the International Design Competition was an exciting event for the City of Fez and an important milestone for the project. We are on our way to realizing the goal of improving the lives of the people of the Medina, and moving this community closer to a revitalized future.
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